The 2017 NFL Schedule is in the books as we enter Wild Card Weekend with the first round of the playoff set to kickoff. A weekend that features two exciting double headers for fans and sports handicappers to take advantage of. On Saturday, the action gets started as the Tennessee Titans head to Arrowhead to take on the Kansas City Chiefs at 4:35pm ET followed by a prime time matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams at 8:15pm ET.
The excitement wraps up with a second day of double header action as the Buffalo Bills make the trip South to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars at 1:05pm ET. That contest will be followed by an NFC South showdown as the Carolina Panthers head to the big easy to take on the New Orleans Saints at 4:40pm ET. Each of these four contests look solid on paper as good matchups but matchups that may be difficult to pick for sports handicappers with the lines approaching double digits for two of the matchups.
One contest we are paying extra close attention to is the one taking place in Jacksonville featuring two teams that have not been to the playoffs in a very long time. For the Bills after watching a crazy finish to the regular season their drought of missing came to end one that last saw them play back in the 1999 NFL Season. On the other side, the Jaguars will make their first trip back into playoffs since the 2007 NFL Season.
Now these two teams will face off with many new faces in charge, under center with one goal at hand. That goal is to pick up a much needed win to move on to the divisional round of the playoffs. For these two teams the tests will be big this weekend as both teams have very good defenses, solid but shaky at time quarterbacks and running backs when healthy who can take over a game.
With that said let’s take a look at the Keys to The Game for both the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars in their Wild Card Matchup on Sunday January 7th, 2018.
Buffalo Bills – All up to the Line
For the Bills, the key to their success on Wild Card Sunday will come from how their offense and defensive lines play. On the offensive side of the ball the line will need to be ready to face a Jaguars defense that ranked 2nd in the NFL with 55 sacks during the regular season. Add more pressure to the fire the team may or may not be with LeSean McCoy who continues to deal with an ankle injury. On the defensive side of the ball the Bills will need to play aggressive up front while slowing down Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars rushing attack. If they can shut down the run, the game will turn to the arm of Blake Bortles who has had issues protecting the ball in years past.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Establish the Run
Do you want Leonard Fournette to carry the momentum of the game or Blake Bortles? The answer should be an easy one as Fournette has shown his ability to make big plays while Bortles on the other hand has made some big mistakes over the course of his young NFL career. If the Jaguars can establish the run against the Bills early with Fournette as well as guys like T.J. Yeldon (5.2 yards per attempt), Chris Ivory and Corey Grant (8.3 yards per attempt), the passing lanes should open up as the Bills shift a linebacker to the line to help slow down the run.
Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-9.5)
Over/Under Line – 39.5
As you look at this matchup the biggest concern for many including sports handicappers is whether or not the Jaguars can cover the near double digit spread. Now as far as the trends are concerned they stack up pretty evenly as the Bills are 5-5 over their last ten contests and are 4-4 on the road. Meanwhile the Jaguars enter this contest covering in six of their last ten contests while posting a 4-3 mark at home on the year. Looking deeper the trends lean towards the Jaguars as the Bills have struggled in January covering just two of their last nine contests while the Jaguars enter this game red hot covering in four of their last five home games, six of their last eight against teams in the AFC and five of their last seven against teams with a winning record. As far as the head to head trends they point to the Bills as they have covered in five of their last seven trips to Jacksonville while both the road team and under dog has covered in five of their last seven overall meetings.
In the end this contest may simply come down to whether or not LeSean McCoy suits up on Sunday and how healthy he really is. If McCoy misses the game the decision to ride the Jaguars is an easy one. If McCoy plays the Bills might be the safe bet unless the spread starts to drop back down to closer to seven or even six points.
NFL Football Pick of the Week – Buffalo Bill (W/Points unless McCoy is out)